In a little over a week, Sweden residents will have a chance to speak out formally about the town’s proposed wind-energy regulations.
The Town Board has scheduled a public hearing on the law for 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, September 14. It’ll be held at Town Hall, 18 State Street, Brockport.
Sweden’s looking at a pretty run of the mill ordinance. It doesn’t allow turbines to go up randomly all over the town, but it doesn’t ban them either. Instead, it’ll limit them to a wind-energy overlay district that would stretch across a southern section of the town.
That’s a standard approach that’s been used by several communities in this region. When Hamlin developed its wind tower regulations, it included a wind energy district as well. A court ultimately struck down Hamlin’s regulations, but that had more to do with a flaw in the environmental-review process than it did the contents of the law.
I had the quashed Hamlin law filed away, so I pulled it out to compare with Sweden’s proposal. The laws have the same general intent and effect. They are written and organized differently, and some of the details aren’t the same. But Sweden and Hamlin are different communities, so that’s to be expected.
Both laws address residential wind-energy systems and industrial systems. For residential systems, both require special-use permits and make the applicants cover the costs of the reviews. Both contain height limits: Sweden would limit them to 100 feet tall while Hamlin had 65-foot or 120-foot limits that were based on lot size. Both regulations require to applicants fund periodic noise studies. Sweden tacks on a requirement to periodically study any flickering light caused by the rotating blades.
There are a couple of major differences in the industrial turbine approaches, more matters of numbers than guiding principles. Hamlin had a 400-foot limit on tower and turbine height while Sweden maxes out at 200 feet. Again, community character and things like housing density could be factors. Sweden uses a simple formula to determine how far towers have to be from the edge of the site; multiply the tower height by two, and there’s the minimum setback. Hamlin’s law would have required the turbine to be 600 feet from the site’s edge and 1,500 feet from the nearest off-site residence. The setbacks were a major source of controversy when Hamlin developed its laws.
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